Role Queue is coming to Overwatch‘s main servers soon, bringing with it a renaissance for the game. Where previously, games would have several DPS with no tanks or supports, players are now allowed to pick what role they want, meaning they can finally play the one or two characters they really want. Furthermore, some characters are finally getting their chance to shine as new team setups emerge out and characters that struggled in the GOATs meta are suddenly go-to picks. There’s the popular “Team Orisa/Roadhog,” Reinhardt is finally getting an ability to reduce pushback, and Mei and even Reaper get to showcase their special means to eliminate the opposition.
While there will be plenty of balance changes to help usher in the new Role Queue, there is a conversation going around about one particular character: Reaper. Everyone’s favorite edgelord is getting some playtime in both the PTR and the Overwatch League, but it has brought back a conversation point that has lasted for as long as the game itself: how Reaper possesses the most useless ability in the game. It’s as funny as it is sad to think that while any other ability has utility to it, Reaper’s teleport, Shadowstep, is an ability no one dares to use. It’s even at a point where players would use Reaper’s ultimate, Death Blossom, more often than Shadow Step itself. If that’s not a cause for concern, it’s hard to say what is.
So while Overwatch is getting role lock, character reworks, and Sigma, we need to take a look at Reaper and how we can try and help the guy out.
A Reaper Recap
So to start, a quick recap. Reaper’s team fights are to get in close and start pumping enemies full of lead. It can be suicide to just rush in, shotguns blazing, so a good Reaper player will find ways to catch the opposing team off-guard. While the previous GOATs meta left him completely shut out and worthless, the role lock will help to ensure his ability to take down enemies. As for what abilities Reaper has, he can heal himself through attacking enemies and can transform into a shadow and avoid taking damage.
All fine and good, but then we get to Shadow Step. By using the Shadow Step, Reaper is able to disappear and reappear at a distant location. So why would this be declared as the worst ability in Overwatch? While all abilities are something that can be done during a fight, Shadowstep is not one of them. It effectively locks in place to wherever he goes because of how long it takes for Reaper to use it. This means that if an opponent sees where Reaper is going, it’s an easy kill.
In some ways, the worst ability is something that only seems to have value when used out of combat, which makes it seem like an even bigger joke. It also doesn’t help that Reaper screams to everyone that he is repositioning, as if he wants to get shot in the face.
Is a Rework Necessary?
So we have an ability that goes unused, with many fans raising concerns and complaints for what seems to be three-plus years. Surely Blizzard would listen to the feedback and do something about it, right? Well… that’s where this conversation gets complicated…
Blizzard has gone on record many times stating that Shadow Step was never an ability to use during fights; only as an “out-of-combat” mobility tool. As such, Shadow Step is the only ability in Overwatch that seemingly has no value during a team fight.
It’s understandable that Blizzard wants to remain on the straight and narrow with Reaper’s unused ability, but at some point, this does seem like it needs addressing. We have had plenty of cases where Blizzard decides that a character does not need any changes only to change their mind later. Best examples include making Symmetra feel like a more proper character, and to not have characters like Torbjorn or Hanzo feel like “troll picks.”
The biggest issue with Reaper though is that unlike most characters in Overwatch, he doesn’t rely on his abilities. His primary focus is his primary fire, and that’s about it. He does do his job well, but some would argue that it’s his lack of utility in many situations that tend to lead players towards other DPS to win matches. Reaper still has plenty of uses regardless, but if Shadow Step was better, we likely wouldn’t be having this discussion to begin with.
A Means to Buff Shadow Step
So let’s say that Blizzard was still hellbent on the Hellfire Shotgun user keeping Shadow Step. What could be done to try and make it at least viable? That in itself is a very complicated question, and while it would be nice to say that one answer could resolve this, that’s likely not going to happen here. Still, let’s take a few cracks at it anyway.
One suggestion made by fans is to speed up Reaper’s teleportation. A mind-blowing suggestion, isn’t it? The amount of time it takes for Reaper to start up the ability and then to regain control of himself is more than enough time for teammates to drop dead during gunfights, so speeding up the teleportation would help.
Another fun suggestion for Shadow Step is one that even people who hate Reaper can agree on: Shut up Reaper. Imagine if, during Assassin’s Creed, the Assassin who is sneaking up on someone were to suddenly yell, “I’M ABOUT TO STAB YOU FROM BEHIND!” While the move was meant to be the enemy team’s way of knowing that Reaper is nearby, this actually comes to be the biggest downfall of Reaper. If the ability is to allow Reaper to sneak up on the opponent, you’d think he’d be silent rather than yelling, “THE REAPER COMES!” This was tweaked in the past so it wasn’t as loud, but his voice is still elevated enough to be useless regardless.
Extra Utility Required?
What else could we consider for Shadow Step in case if the speed were the same and Reaper did want to keep yelling for people to pay attention to him? The other thing we could think of is Reaper’s appearance at the new location he goes to. It can be dumb to consider how Reaper is left as a sitting duck when he uses it, but suppose if Reaper had more insurance when he got there. With good timing, a pro Widowmaker can easily pop off Reaper’s head, but suppose if Reaper were to have more invincibility like with Wraith Form.
If Shadow Step were to have more of an “engagement” feel to it, why not make it where Reaper was to have a second or two of Wraith Form (or even just reduced damage)? It sounds a bit powerful, but this could be a means for Reaper to immediately bow out of a fight should things go south or get ready to unleash some pain. Perhaps when he is able to move around, he can’t attack or use his abilities right away, but give him a small means to prepare himself to engage.
The last idea is one that would actually help to make Reaper a trickster who can play mind games with the enemy. Suppose that if Reaper were able to cancel the ability. Say he were to pick a spot, but he cancels out and can make people think he was going to teleport when he didn’t. Could be a fun way to make people you were to make a jump when you didn’t.
Just a few ideas, but they are far from anything that could help Shadow Step be any better.
To say that Shadowstep needs adjusting doesn’t mean that Reaper is a useless character. Even before role lock came into play, various stats had Reaper as one of the few used DPS heroes in the game, except for Bastion. And we saw one rare instance where Shadowstep saved a player from flying off the map during the Overwatch League. At this point though, there aren’t enough reasons to justify an ability that has so little use.
However, as much as we could propose ways to rework Reaper’s ability into something else, that’s a topic for another day. Even suggestions online tend to lean towards turning Reaper’s ability into either Moira’s or Genji’s to just “instaport” players or just have them dash forward in a puff of smoke. But would that really make Reaper better? Well, maybe giving Reaper something akin to Moira’s fade could help, but that could become too much to deal with. If you have any thoughts on what you would replace Reaper’s Shadow Step with, be sure to leave it in the comments below.
Otherwise, if Blizzard were to take a second crack at making Shadow Step more viable, what would you think they would tweak up to make it better? Do you think Reaper should even have an ability that seems to only have proper functions outside of fights? Or should Shadow Step be left as is? Leave your thoughts down below and follow us here at Culture of Gaming. Thanks for reading.
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How’s it going everyone, I’m Mike Sol and I am one of many contributing writers to Culture of Gaming. You can usually find me playing some of the latest games to come out, although I tend to avoid anything related to sports or strategy. I enjoy the big three and all the games on them but my main console is the Xbox One. I don’t have a specific preference in gaming, but any game that has fun action and beating up waves of enemies is usually my cup tea. If you ever want me to game with me or want me to write about something of interest, feel free to hit me up. I hope to have a personal blog set up soon, but my loyalties shall remain with CoG.